Some might say there’s nothing we can do, now that the so-called fourth industrial revolution is well and truly upon us. After all, the stats are startling. According to Oxford Economics, for instance, “up to 20 million manufacturing jobs are set to be lost to robots by 2030”. Faced with those kinds of predictions, perhaps we should just accept our fate, taking whatever profit benefits we can get along the way?
Well, we could. It’s true that jobs will be lost. But if we interpret that as meaning that tech – whatever its other benefits – is simply a destructive force when it comes to employment, then we really are setting ourselves up for a fall.
If we don’t try to work with tech, we lose our opportunity to ensure the one thing that humans are still unequivocally better at than robots stays in the conversation: creativity.
Tech plus human creativity is, well, rocket fuel. It becomes a tool for explosive growth. Tech without the buy-in of humans is just an efficiency tool – and one which, ironically, mean fewer humans are required.
It is incumbent on leaders to keep humans in the conversation. We must look at how tech can add value to our work and how we can add value to the tech; it’s the combination of the two that is invaluable. (Our value is not just about creativity, of course: it’s also about human workers’ hard-earned and long-established expertise.)
And looking to create this combination should always be our first priority. Tech is, naturally, going to be viewed as a way to quickly cut costs. But don’t let that become all that tech is for. After all, tech can even lead to job creation (an optimistic position shared by this Guardian article).
So how do we do ensure a healthy relationship with tech? We consult our teams. We open up the conversation. After all, everyone knows that tech is in the ascendancy and most have made some sort of peace with that. By pretending it’s not happening, we’re not kidding anyone.
This consultancy phase is not happening at present. According to this piece, “almost six in 10 employees said they were not given a say on the use of new technologies.”
There are some star employers when it comes to transparent integration of tech, such as Siemens. But clearly not every company is like this.
If we want technological innovation to be creatively assimilated rather than disruptively enforced, that is down to us as leaders.